Bourdieu and Education: Acts of Practical Theory

By Michael David James Grenfell | Go to book overview

Part II

Practical Applications

The four chapters in this part of the book all deal with the application of Bourdieu’s theory of practice to particular educational research projects.

In each case, the key concepts of habitus and field are used in different ways to explore the topics under investigation. In all but one of these examples, the discussion arises from a collection of empirical data in a specific area of the field of education. The other example (Chapter 5) also includes material collected in this way. However, this discussion integrates texts from others who have worked in the area, but who have not explicitly used Bourdieu’s theory in their own analyses. The objective, in this case, is to indicate ways in which a Bourdieuian approach differs from and perhaps enhances others.

In order to offer a range of educational subjects and contexts, the four chapters each in turn deal with the four principal phases of education: primary, secondary, post-compulsory and higher education.

Chapter 4 examines the relationship between parents and primary schools. It reveals the inequalities of gender and race which are embedded in the home-school relationships. Such inequalities are expressed in mothers’ activities to support their children’s schooling, and are discussed in terms of field, habitus, and cultural capital.

Chapter 5 deals with classroom language and the way legitimate discourses are set up in pedagogic exchanges between pupils and teachers. The ways teachers and pupils operate in such exchanges are discussed in terms of the orthodox cognitive processes of the micro-field site and the habitus of those involved. This approach is contrasted with others dealing with language in education, and some reference is made to the ways a Bourdieuian understanding may affect what goes on in pedagogy.

Chapter 6 examines how the concepts of habitus, field and capital might be used to explain the ways in which young people make their career decisions. The story of a small group of young people is told as they chose to leave school and take up Youth Training places. It is shown how various forms of capital together with individual habitus are determinant in decisions which are made and the way in which they are made.

Chapter 7 looks at the experience of mature students in higher education. This is an account of developing academic habitus, and the way it affects those around the students. It describes experiences and feelings of students on entering education, but also considers the activities of academic staff; in particular, the relative value attributed to teaching and research. Students’

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